Jun 29, 2012
One of the beautiful things about fantasy football is the diversity of types of fantasy football leagues. There are single-season leagues, redraft leagues, keeper leagues, and dynasty leagues. Some leagues start the season with a serpentine draft, while others use an auction process. League sizes, roster regulations, and scoring settings among leagues vary widely. Beyond that, many leagues have unique rules that impact how team owners approach roster decisions at the draft/auction and during the season.
All things considered, each fantasy football league is unique. Granted, one free Yahoo! league with standard scoring is very similar to another, but outside of the free leagues with standard scoring on the same platform, a team owner must understand the unique league settings and consider how each rule may impact his or her team.
As such, the importance of a league’s draft/auction varies from league to league. In almost every case, the draft plays a significant role in the success of a team (either this season or in future seasons). However, there are a few things to consider when assessing how essential a draft is to a team.
Access to Players During the Season. This is all about supply and demand of players. Some leagues have rules that limit the number of player acquisitions allowed in a given week; a few even go as far as prohibiting them during the entirety of the season. If a league limits a team’s ability to acquire talent during the season, it is imperative that a team focus on the draft to get the right players on the roster.
Activity Level of Owner During Season. An owner that expects to regularly manage his or her team during the course of the season can expect to make some free agent pickups during the season. Some owners plan on making regular lineup changes, but are not willing to commit the time to surf the waiver wire on a weekly basis. Teams that will make fewer acquisitions during the season should focus more on the draft than those whose roster will have significant turnover during the season.
Activity Level of Other Owners. Any experienced participant in fantasy football realizes that some owners spend more time than others in managing roster moves. In leagues where the membership has a low level of activity, it can be easy to find some gems in the free agent pool. Keep in mind, however, it only takes two or three very active owners to make it difficult to find good free agents.
Number of Teams in League. If all other things are equal, drafts are more important in larger leagues, as there is less available in the free agent pool due to the larger number of players drafted. If an owner in a ten-team league is going to pick up a free agent quarterback, roughly the best twenty quarterbacks are already unavailable. For the same league with twelve teams, there are twenty-four quarterbacks that are unavailable.
Depth of Benches. Some leagues have incredibly deep benches, while other bench depth in other leagues is practically nonexistent. As benches get deeper, owners have more of an ability to stash away quality players for a rainy day. Leagues with deeper benches increase the importance of the draft.
Presence of Flex Starters. Flex positions have grown more popular in the past few years, providing owners with additional options in setting their rosters. Owners in leagues with flex positions can better adapt to injuries and bye weeks than their counterparts who do not have the benefits of the flex position. The presence of flex positions improves the level of talent in the free agency pool.
Keeper/Dynasty Settings of League. When drafting in a league that will last for a single season or in a league that will fully redraft for future seasons (there are no keepers), decisions by team owners should be focused on expectations for the season at hand and nothing beyond. In contrast, owners in keeper leagues may consider the value of players in future seasons. Further, those in dynasty leagues are very likely to consider potential production over multiple seasons.
The more players that are expected to be retained through keeper/dynasty rules increases the importance of the draft. Consider someone who takes over a weak team in a dynasty league. It may take that owner multiple years to become competitive. The impact of the upcoming draft will last for multiple seasons in dynasty leagues.
Relatively speaking, when the draft has more importance, there are fewer opportunities in the future to make up for missteps. For example, consider an owner who has the misfortune of losing his or her starting quarterback early in the season. This owner would not have much of a chance to correct this mistake by picking up a free agent, thus leaving the options of playing the next quarterback in the stable or buying a replacement quarterback through a trade. In such leagues, depth becomes more important and risky moves that do not pan out end up costing teams harshly.